At the recently launched website The Best Schools, William Dembski has a detailed, rich, and indeed inspiring interview up that includes some sober reflections on ID’s future. The citation from Pascal reminds me of something William James wrote (in “The Will to Believe”) about how people tend to come to their beliefs based on “the prestige of the opinions” in question. In the Darwin debate, the prestige of naturalism seems to me to be the single most formidable to barrier to ID’s receiving thoughtful consideration from otherwise thoughtful people.
The epigraph to my book The Design Revolution is a quote from a short essay of Pascal’s called the “The Art of Persuasion”: “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.” When I got into this business, I thought truth and its validation (what Pascal calls “proof”) was enough, or at least close to enough. Now that I’m older and wiser, I see that the majority of people have other priorities. Even those who protest that they love truth (Richard Dawkins is one) will use such protestations to advance their own biases and agendas. Here, I’m addressing myself, as well — certainly earlier in my career, selfish ambition and narcissism were vying furiously in my so-called “quest for truth.” Perhaps I’ve not put these aside yet.
I’ve found self-deception as much among Christians as among atheists and agnostics. In fact, I’ve come to like dealing with secularists better than with the Christians who use religion as a cloak to cover their pride and absence of love. Secularists are at least more likely to admit that they’re being bad. Christians, especially American evangelical Christians, with pietism and puritanism always in the background, have to pretend to be good.
What does all this have to do with your question? It’s this: Whereas a decade ago I was all gung-ho about ID becoming the new reigning paradigm that would replace conventional evolutionary theory, I no longer have that optimism. That’s not to say I’m not going to continue to work toward that end. I will. And I could see ID’s fortunes changing quickly. But I could also see the old paradigm lingering on. The former Soviet Union collapsed very quickly even though it looked invincible a few years earlier. Our banking system, by contrast, has been skirting insolvency for decades and continually seems able to kick the can down the road.
ID, in my view, has the better argument. But as an attorney sitting across his desk from a client put it in a New Yorker cartoon dating back more than 50 years: “You have a pretty good case, Mr. Pitkin. How much justice can you afford?” I’m not sure how much justice ID can afford.
Read the rest here.